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Wife’s Ultimatum: She or My Mother

Questioner

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Reply Date

Nov 18, 2018

Question

Dear counselor, I am in desperate need of help. I have been married for 13 years and have 2 kids. My mother had to move in with us after my father had passed away. My wife is a convert and does not get along with my mother at all.

She blames her for everything from the day of our marriage till now. There was tension when mom came to visit us last time, but now since she arrived a few years ago, the tension has risen so high that 1) my wife picks up on things like that my mother doesn't wash dishes properly when she washes and doesn't look after the kids properly when she does. She thinks my mom only tries to help when she is around; she criticizes her perfume to be too strong, her clothes to be nicer than what she buys for me…etc. So she has an objection to everything.

2) My mom, who arrived with high hopes, retaliated and made some mistakes. For instance, in an argument she told her that her parents should come into her room to say hello to her; another time she told my wife that she had listened to her conversation,…etc.

Counselor

Answer


Wife's Ultimatum: She or My Mother

In this counseling answer:

“You will need to talk to your wife and your mother separately and deal with the issues they face with each other. The blame game will not get anyone anywhere. Your mother can’t make your wife feel inferior and vice versa.”


As-Salaamu ’Alaikum brother,

May God make it easy for you. The mother-in-law vs. wife dual is a common problem in many families. Based on what you shared, you have to go to couples counseling if divorce is now on the table. You really need to consider if this marriage takes away more than it gives. It also sounds like your wife’s understanding of Islam is fragile and this poses a challenge because you will not have Islamic values as a mediation source for your issues. You are both arguing based on egos at this point; thus, it is imperative that you get professional support as soon as possible.

Based on what you shared, I believe that the issues you have with your wife are extending to your mother, and the issues you have with your mother are extending to your wife. You must honor your mother, but if she is the type that meddles too much and tries to control your marriage, this must be worked on. If your mother constantly makes your wife feel inferior, then this problem must be addressed by you to your mother.

If your wife does not have respect for her elders and has little patience for cultural differences, this should be addressed in counseling. Your wife might be using Islam and the kids as a way to punish and hurt you. This is pretty common in interfaith marriages that struggle; partners start threatening and blaming the religion and not the actions of the people.

You are caught in a few challenges:

  1. Ego competition between mom and wife
  2. Both of them seeking loyalty, attention, and validation from you
  3. Cultural and religious differences that mask personality shortcomings

You will need to talk to your wife and your mother separately and deal with the issues they face with each other. The blame game will not get anyone anywhere. Your mother can’t make your wife feel inferior and vice versa. Generally, you as a man need to step up and facilitate the following:

– Do not allow little things to blow up; reduce tension as soon as possible and downplay the heat that either of them put into a small matter like “her perfume is too strong.”

– Your wife and mother need more space during the visits – it’s not healthy to have everyone in the house all together with all this history. Take breaks and spend time with each of them away from each other when possible.


In this counseling video:


– Speak well about them to each other; this should help the negative script they have change over time. At this point, some white lies will not hurt you (and is Islamic as well.)

– Try to support each of them to vent about the other away from each other while keeping a broader positive view and goal of family unity.

– If you share with them what they say about the other, stop that immediately.

– Advise both of them to be humble; remind them that no one knows everything and we should not be judgmental of others. We can all use character development as only God is perfect.

– Review this article to help you with better communication skills and conflict resolution.

-If your wife doesn’t want to do counseling, this is a serious alarm bell. Most of the time, it’s the woman who wants to do counseling to keep the family together. If she is totally opposed, this might mean that she is still really angry and wants you to suffer, or she has given up. Either way, give it time and compassionate efforts as mentioned above.

You must start counseling on your own regardless of your wife’s involvement. In sha’ Allah, your wife will follow if she sees that you are committed to making the family whole again.

Salam,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Karim Serageldin

Karim Serageldin, founder of Noor, completed his BA in psychology & religion, followed by an MA in east-west psychology with a specialization in spiritual counseling. He is a certified life coach with years of teaching and community outreach experience. His practical work and research includes developing a modern framework of Islamic psychology, relationship, family and youth coaching. He provides seminars and workshops in the United States. You can contact Br. Karim at: http://www.noorhumanconsulting.com or facebook.com/noorhumanconsulting

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